Wednesday, November 20, 2013

4 Online Art Communities To Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Every artist knows what it's like to sit down at their sketchbook and suddenly realize-uh oh- I have no idea what to do! Luckily, the internet is full of creative websites that have plenty of fun contests, assignments, and prompts that will get you back to art-making in no time. Whether you're making new portfolio pieces or just wanting to have fun with other creative people, here are four artist communities to check out now.

1) Project : Rooftop

Perfect for: Artists focused on character design and/or comics.

Started in 2006, comic creator Dean Trippe and comic journalist Chris Arrant started Project : Rooftop as a way to invite artists to reinvent the costumes of classic and popular comic book characters, from Batman to The Fantastic Four. What has emerged is a wildly entertaining and inspiring collection of concepts from both established and emerging illustrators and cartoonists. Even if you don't participate in the redesign contests, it's addictive to flip through the archive and see all the amazing (and sometimes plain old wacky) redesigns of comic favorites like Superman, Spiderman, and Wolverine. Below are three great and different takes on Wonder Woman.

left to right: Joe Quinones, James Stowe, and Maris Wicks

2) They Draw & Cook

Perfect for: Artists looking to experiment with hand-lettering, graphic designers, and foodies.

Brother and sister team Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell started this website simply as a pet project, but it's grown into a respected and much loved community where artists submit their illustrated recipes. Several published books later (!), you can also visit their equally popular sister site They Draw & Travel, which features an extensive library of illustrated maps. Both websites have developed a cult following and have even become a hub for art directors to find new talent. Artists can start an account and submit recipes/maps at any time, and Nate and Salli will post the cream of the crop on the homepage regularly to keep things fresh (hint: make sure you follow submission directions carefully, as your submitted piece could be picked for the next book!).

The talented Tracy Mattocks

They Draw & Cook co-creator Nate Padavick

Perfect for: Surface designers, artists focused on color and pattern.

Spoonflower is a site that prints custom fabric, wall decals, wall paper and giftwrap from your own uploaded designs. Basically, anything that could have a pattern on it! In the mix is a weekly contest where artists get a theme and make a pattern to go along with it. The winner gets their design sold for a week on the site (and earns 10% of all sales), PLUS a nifty Spoonflower gift card (perfect for buying a few yards of your winning fabric design, right?). Want to learn more about making patterns and repeats? There are many online web tutorials and e-courses available at sites like Make It In Design.

 Contest-winning patterns by the lovely Miriam Bos

Perfect for:  Artists wanting a wide range of creative freedom; recent graduates or newcomers to illustration.

Probably the most well-known site from this list, Illustration Friday was created by illustrator and former art-director Penelope Dullaghan as a way to force herself to regularly make new portfolio pieces early on in her freelance career. The name says it all: A topic is decided upon by the community, and artists have until Friday to post their visual interpretation of it. Past topics have included such themes as "Secret", "Creature", and "Explore". I particularly like this site because it allows people of all backgrounds to participate no matter what medium or style you work in. So whether you are into ethereal, somewhat surreal paintings or cute children's book illustrations, 99% of artists will find they can jump right in and adapt the topic of the week to their way of working. 

 Illustrator Kelly Murphy's submission for the topic "Midsummer Night" 

So what are you waiting for? Dig in!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lilla Rogers' MATS Class Part B: WEEK 4

Week 4 in Make Art That Sells covered Editorial Illustration. This is definitely the area of illustration that I live in right now- books, magazine articles, advertisements. In fact, the first college class I taught ever centered around Editorial Illustration!

Lilla asked each artist to do a map of the city or town that they currently live in. For me, this meant Nashville. The funny thing is, I already did a map of Nashville last Spring for Nfocus Magazine! Of course, there were going to naturally be differences (Nfocus asked me to illustrate the best picnic spots around town). Still, I was a little nervous because I wasn't 100% happy with the map I did for them. So this time around there was a little added pressure to redeem myself! And you know what? I think I managed that. This is a large gouache painting, and I'm really happy how I was able to make it so much more "me" with the characters and all the little icons that are snuck in there (like the bike and picnic basket. Also love the "This Way" speech bubble/arrow idea. I want to use that more!).

Working on the LAST WEEK of Lilla's class! I wish she offered a Part C!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lilla Rogers' MATS Class Part B: WEEK 3

Week 3 in Make Art That Sells was a market I know a little about: scrapbooking! Why do I know about it? Well, I've never done art for one, but one creative team at C.R. Gibson does A LOT of them, so I'm constantly seeing them around the office (I wandered into our product room and saw bookcases of them- birthday scrapbooks, first-day-of-school scrapbooks, vacation scrapbooks... needless to say there are many, MANY scrapbooks out there that need art.)

Our inspiration was to draw vintage cameras and typewriters, which instantly made me think of how very hipster the idea was once I started sketching.

BOOM. My concept was born, and I simply ran with it.

In the end, it's been...a little awkward in MATS. I feel like I am more comfortable with exploring my own unique solutions to the assignments this semester...but I feel very isolated at the same time. I am one of the more "misfit" artists of the group, and as a teacher myself, I can understand why Lilla can't really pick art like the above example- it doesn't go far in illustrating a point to 300+ individuals because it's SO specific. In the end, I'm proud of myself, but I'm also reminded of how different my art is every week...and sometimes "different" is good. Unique! But sometimes "different" also can mean "unmarketable" in the worst case scenario. My style has been great for editorial and galleries, but this is a fine line I walk in licensing. As I work towards Surtex, it will be interesting to see what I develop- my style could lead to wild success, or a complete belly flop...(bum bum BUUUUUUUM). Stay tuned...